‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ Blu-Ray Review (THN)

Pacific Rim Uprising faces a double whammy of expectation. First, it has to fill the shoes of director Guillermo del Toro and be a worthy sequel to boot. Second, with five years between movies it’s slightly belated, a situation that rarely ends well.

Director Steven S. DeKnight and producer/star John Boyega join forces here to move the story on and inject new elements, while at the same time giving fans and general audiences what they want, i.e. Jaegers and Kaijus bashing the hell out of each other with lots of buildings collapsing along the way.

The balancing act starts promisingly enough. Boyega plays Jake, son of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba’s character from part one). A decade since the devastation of the last film he’s turned his back on piloting Jaegers and is now partying and scavenging to make his way in this drastically-altered world. When he runs into young Amara (Cailee Spaeny), who’s managed to knock up her own Jaeger, it takes him on a path back to his father’s stamping ground of the PPDC and a reunion with former buddy Nate (Scott Eastwood).

At that point, DeKnight has to start bringing in former characters such as Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), Dr.Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) and Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), who’ve all gone their separate ways into the various plot strands. If you remember these people, and I kind of do, then fine. If you don’t then you have to keep up a bit. Some things are recapped but other aspects, such as the piloting of the Jaegers, are just thrown in and maybe needed more explanation for first-timers.

Kikuchi isn’t given that much to do, while Day and Gorman resume their snappy wisecracker/cartoon boffin double act from before. The pair roam around like ex-Ghostbusters looking for a spook and spark well off one another. Meanwhile Jake and Nate have to train Amara and a team of international newbies how to “move like Jaeger” (sorry) and take on a resurgent batch of Kaijus, who are back for some reason.

The film doesn’t gel much and floats around in chunks before everything comes together for a final battle. In my view, DeKnight improves on his predecessor by setting the Jaeger/Kaiju faceoffs in broad daylight. There the shiny robots and weird creatures can be done justice, whereas in Pacific Rim everything was murky and indistinct.

Another plus is the light atmosphere, which for me was preferable to the first movie with its daft concept taken a little too seriously. Boyega is clearly having fun and is his usual cocky yet likeable self. However, Uprising could have done with ditching a couple of characters just to give things breathing space. If you want more, the home release is happy to oblige, with deleted scenes and a few featurettes.

Despite the last half hour or so being incoherent I enjoyed the film and was happy to leave my brain at the door as the carnage commenced. I’m not sure it’s done enough to warrant a third instalment, something that’s suggested at the end as these things often do. But there’s enough electricity and indeed eccentricity to make Pacific Rim a more watchable mega-franchise than most.

 

This review first appeared on THN

Advertisements

“None of us knew quite how crazy the tides were.” Simon Rumley Interview, ‘Crowhurst’ (THN)

Out to own on DVD/Blu-ray is Crowhurst, the true life story of British sailor Donald Crowhurst. His decision to take part in a round-the-world yacht race in 1968 had catastrophic consequences, as Donald found himself quite literally out of his depth. His boat was found but its occupant was never seen again.

Justin Salinger plays the title role in this unusual and powerful drama, which found itself competing against another Crowhurst picture, The Mercy with Colin Firth.

Simon Rumley is the acclaimed and innovative director who battled strong currents to tell Crowhurst’s tale in his own unique way. Producing the film was Nicolas Roeg (Don’t Look NowPerformance), a trailblazer in his own right who had attempted his own version years before.

We caught up with Simon to talk about depicting this sea-bound mystery…

THN: What brought you to the project?

Simon Rumley: I was offered the project. At that point, I hadn’t heard of Donald Crowhurst, but I did some research and read the script and it was one of those things where you think “Is this really true?” It really was one of those stranger than fiction moments. And the story I felt had a lot of themes I’d dealt with in the past.

As much as anything I liked the idea of the guy being British and having what I suppose you would call arrogance in one respect and confidence in another. I thought there was a way of investigating national characteristics and our national traits.

And also the subject of isolation and loneliness. He was essentially a good guy but he makes all these terrible mistakes which have an impact on him and his family. I thought it would make a fascinating film investigating someone’s psyche.

Water is famously difficult to shoot on. How did you find working with it?

Yeah! Pretty much what everyone said it was going to be, to be honest. Initially, we were going to do 2 days at sea, and I said: “Look we should at least try 3.” Then that somehow went up to 4. We shot for 4 days and at the end, we didn’t have an opening scene or a closing scene. So we had to do 2 more days and then the motorboat we had to have for insurance purposes broke down on the final day.

We were also shooting in the Bristol Channel… none of us knew quite how crazy the tides were. It turned out it has the second strongest tides of anywhere in the world. We could only sail at certain times or we’d be f***ed. We would set up a shot, get ready to shoot it and then the captain would be like “We’ve got to turn around or we’ll crash!” And we’d just spent the last half hour setting everything up.

The other thing with the Bristol Channel is there’s land on either side, so the first morning was pretty much useless. We tried to film it so there was no land in the background but 99% of the time there was land. It proved quite challenging! While it’s not true to say the script went out the window, we tried to get as much of it as we could, but some scenes were lost.

Interestingly that gave the film an intensity because we had lots of cutaways and mini-sequences of Donald looking into the distance. We shot as much footage as we could, so even if we didn’t have the script we had enough to replace what we missed with something else. It was an enjoyable experience oddly. As a director, it was the time I had to think most on my feet really.

Nicolas Roeg is the executive producer, and he wanted to film the story himself years ago. How much of a creative influence did he have, or did he let you go your own way with it?

Mike (Michael Riley, producer) already knew him. He’s one of my favourite directors, if not my favourite, and we thought he should come aboard. We went out to a pub a couple of times, he read the script. We had some fairly lengthy discussions, which would kind of go in and out of the script and sometimes he would bring up one of his own films.

Having him certainly changed the film to a degree, because the film was written linearly, and the combination of having him on board and what I was talking about before, shooting more than what we had in the script… when we were in the edit Mike said “I want to make this as Roegian as possible. Try and do what Nic would do.” Certainly having someone encouraging me to go in non-linear fashion, to go a bit crazy and all that stuff, definitely shaped the film and obviously having Nic in the background was the main reason behind that. All of that encouraged me in the edit.

I hadn’t seen any of his films for a while and was thinking “What if he asks me about them?”. Before we met I watched some of his films and then the one he did mention was one I hadn’t rewatched, Castaway (1986). As he pointed out, it’s different of course, but had the same theme of self-imposed exile and was about a man losing his marbles.

There’s an unexpected amount of singing in the film! Where did that come from?

I’m a big music fan, films aside, and I suppose going back to what I was saying about it being a film with a quintessentially British character to it… I wanted to have a shorthand about a sense of British pride and duty. For Queen and Country. I thought it was a way of getting that emotion across.

We knew that The Mercy was in production at the same time. There was no way we were going to match the glossiness of their film, so we went the opposite way. I thought it would give it a unique character and make it different.

There was also something in Magnolia, where three-quarters of the way through all the characters sing. I guess that’s something that stayed with me. The songs are a manifestation of Donald’s isolation and loneliness.

This interview first appeared on THN.

“As one of my agents said once, ‘Boy you don’t make it easy for yourself Andy!’” Andrew Fleming Interview, ‘Ideal Home’ (THN)

Out today is Ideal Home, a comedy-drama starring Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd as Erasmus and Paul. This gay couple’s lives are turned upside down by the arrival of a little boy (Jack Gore), who it turns out is Erasmus’s grandson.

The writer/director of the movie is Andrew Fleming, a filmmaker who doesn’t stand still when it comes to his craft. Speaking of which, one of his best-known films is The Craft (1996). He also helmed Threesome (1994), Nancy Drew (2007) and the remake of The In-Laws with Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks (2003).

We sat down with him to chat about his eclectic career and how he brought this non-typical family story to the screen…

THN: Where did the story come from?

Andrew Fleming: It kind of came from a couple of different places. I outlined a script that featured Paul and Erasmus, but it didn’t quite work so I put it in a drawer. And then somebody suggested I write a script about a gay couple with a child and because I was living in a situation where my partner had a son from a previous relationship, a marriage to a woman… this was a while ago when it wasn’t so common to see a male couple with strollers, so I kind of migrated the fiction of these 2 guys with our home life. It’s not an autobiography but it’s informed by the truth of what happened in my life.

How did Steve Coogan come to be cast?

The character was written as English and I thought ‘I know someone who’s English and funny’ so I showed him it and he really liked it. So we worked on it for a while, and he’d give me ideas and ask questions. I’m good friends with Steve and we have a rapport. When it came to who Paul would be, literally the first person we thought of was Paul Rudd and Steve sent it to Paul because he knew him and Paul took a liking to it. It’s not that exciting a story…

It sounds okay to me…

I mean it’s not filled with rejections and weird happenstance, it kind of just happened!

How did you find Jack Gore?

Strangely enough I had worked with him a number of times before. I did some episodes of a TV series with him when he was 7 years old. He was good but he was 7, so he was running around being 7! I worked on a TV pilot with him after and found out he was a really smart kid, a brilliant young man. We did a wide search and he turned out to be the best choice. I was always rooting for him but it was a group decision.

Tell me about how Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan worked on their onscreen relationship.

Steve and Paul are fans of each others. They would do their work and then when we were lighting the next scene they would go to the side of the set and gab and laugh. I think they had a great time working together… I know they did.

You mentioned the characters started off in another script. Could that become a follow up?

It was a non-story, a premise lacking a story. It needed something, the catalyst of a child showing up. So there’s nothing there, but that happens a lot. I did another movie called Dick, and the two teenage girls in that (played by Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams) came from, I think, 3 different stories into that story. You know if you really love a character and the story isn’t working you can put them in a different circumstance and make something good out of it.

Looking back over your career so far, it’s been quite varied. Because Hollywood is about pigeonholing people has that been difficult to maintain?

Well as one of my agents said once, ‘Boy you don’t make it easy for yourself Andy!’ I just don’t want to make the same movie twice. You get up very early, around 4.30 on the Monday. You don’t do it for the money. I do it to make something new and challenge myself. All of the best filmmakers I admire have tried all different types of genres.

What’s been the most creatively satisfying movie you’ve worked on?

With Ideal Home I’ve personalized it more than my other movies, apart from one I made a long time ago called Threesome. It’s very much a big slice of my life and it’s been satisfying and also a little terrifying to put it out there because when people judge it, they’re judging me!

 

This interview first appeared on THN